More Preemies Mean More Disabilities, Doctors Say

premature newborn baby in hospital
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Two studies from the British Medical Journal give us good news and bad news, MSNBC reports. The good news is the survival rates for preemies is increasing. The bad news is that rates of severe illness and disabilities hasn't gone down.

The rate of babies born at or before 27 weeks has gone up across the West, with the highest rates in the United States and the United Kingdom. Researchers are worried that while doctors are able to save preemies, the number of children and adults with disabilities caused by premature birth, like cerebral palsy, learning disabilities, and lung problems, will dramatically increase. The first study studied preemies born between 22 and 25 weeks in 1995 and again in 2006, and found the number of preemies going to intensive care after birth increased by 44 percent. Their immediate survival rates—from birth to the time they head home with mommy and daddy—increased by 13 percent. The second study looked at the same group of children once they reached three years. The children in the 2006 sample were more likely to be healthy toddlers without disabilities. But the same study found that the 1995 babies and the 2006 babies born between 22 and 25 weeks of gestation had almost the same rates of severe disabilities at three years (18 and 19 percent respectively).

Doctors are happy with the progress that's been made but stress the need for hospitals and researchers to focus more on helping keep surviving preemies healthier so they turn into healthy kids and grown-ups.

Words:Desiree Browne

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